Debunking the Right’s Straw Man Fallacy, Part 1

“A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion, as if that is really the claim the first person is making.” Excelsior Online Writing Lab’s Argument and Critical Thinking curriculum

This is the strategy of the extreme right in the U.S., which I deconstructed in part in my argument regarding the response of James Dobson to Christianity Today’s editorial about removing Donald Trump from office. This is the first in a series of discussions about the Right Wing Straw Man Fallacy.

The most heinous of the fallacies promoted by the extreme right (which includes our current leadership) is that the have-nots somehow only want handouts — usually from the pockets of the haves — rather than working in the same way that the haves have. These “conservatives” are truly disgusted by those who “refuse” to take care of their own. These people are likely well-intentioned, but this perspective is so addictive that people will follow it to sometimes bizarre conclusions.

This position is but a single facet of the straw man created by the right to justify its extreme positions, and the problem with straw men is that they don’t have to be real to be bullied. This straw man is multi-faceted and represents the extreme of everything the right “hates”. Borrowing in large portion from Dr. James Dobson, here are a few of the characteristics of this “opponent” of the Christian Right:

Pro-abortion
Anti-family
Promotes laziness for the poor
Hostile to the military
Dispassionate toward Israel
Supports a socialist form of government
Promotes confiscatory taxation
Opposes school choice
Favors men in women’s sports and boys in girl’s locker rooms
Promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda
Opposes parental rights
Distrusts evangelicals and anyone who is not politically correct.

In attempts to cloud reality, these people mash all of these into one enemy called “the left”. They are highly adept at promulgating such a fallacy, because their Bible tells them they can make sweeping judgments in the self-serving name of God’s prosperity.

This was recently revealed in a Brookings analysis paper “Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay.”

Some will say that not all low-wage workers are in dire economic straits or reliant on their earnings to support themselves, and that’s true. But as the following data points show, it would be a mistake to assume that most low-wage workers are young people just getting started, or students, or secondary earners, or otherwise financially secure:

  • Two-thirds (64%) of low-wage workers are in their prime working years of 25 to 54.
  • More than half (57%) work full-time year-round, the customary schedule for employment intended to provide financial security.
  • About half (51%) are primary earners or contribute substantially to family living expenses.
  • Thirty-seven percent have children. Of this group, 23% live below the federal poverty line.
  • Less than half (45%) of low-wage workers ages 18 to 24 are in school or already have a college degree.

These statistics tell an important story: Millions of hardworking American adults struggle to eke out a living and support their families on very low wages.

My own research confirms the position that unemployment numbers are extremely unreliable as a measure of our economy, and the Presidency of Donald Trump has exacerbated the problem. Here’s a graph revealing that in 2019 poverty shows up in unique ways. This graph reveals the growth of people in the labor force working multiple jobs. The source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

MULTIPLE JOBHOLDERS 10-YEAR TRACK

Of course, this only reveals about 5% of the labor force. However, other employment categories combine to tell the bigger story:

“Even with sunny job statistics, the nation’s economy is simply not working well for tens of millions of people.” (Brookings Analysis)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 48.8% of the labor force are dual income families. 63% of families with children had both parents working, Even 65.1% of mothers with children under 6 are working. A BLS profile of the working poor in 2017 offered five points worth noting:

  • Full-time workers continued to be much less likely to be among the working poor than were part-time workers. Among persons in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2.9 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 10.9 percent of part-time workers.
  • Women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. In addition, Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos continued to be more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor.
  • The likelihood of being classified as working poor diminishes as workers attain higher levels of education. Among those with less than a high school diploma, 13.7 percent of those who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor, compared with 1.5 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Individuals who were employed in service occupations continued to be more likely to be among the working poor than those employed in other major occupational groups.
  • Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those with children under 18 years old were over four times as likely as those without children to live in poverty. Families maintained by women were more than twice as likely as families maintained by men to be living below the poverty level.

The point of all of this, of course, is that silly arguments that present poverty as single dimension are extremely misleading, for nowhere is there a way to nail down the laziness of one group of people over another. Margaret Sanger, in speaking about men, once said, “Women have just as much right to be lazy as men,” and that generalization is just as false as the one presented as part of the left-wing boogieman that the Republicans reference.

But that’s the way it goes when political manipulators paint horrendous pictures of their opponents. Beware the straw man of the right, for the character is quite unbelievable.

Dr. James Dobson’s Absurd Response to Christianity Today

As a regular critic of Christianity Today for its refusal to acknowledge the damage being done to the Christian witness by Donald Trump, I have to acknowledge its editorial calling for his removal from office over the evidence used to impeach him. This was a very brave admission of its own guilt, what I would call an act of repentance for the real mess that we find ourselves in today.

Most fanatical evangelicals who support this pathological liar struck back against the magazine over the weekend, and their unity is most fascinating, for it’s all wrapped around a straw enemy created by their own hyperbole. Chief of these critics is Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” fame. Mr. Dobson’s ministry puts him at odds with anyone who doesn’t view his definition of “family” as absolute, and therein lies the weakness of his argument against Christianity Today.

So, let’s examine his response in order to glean our own understanding. His entire pro-Trump passion is built around a figure who doesn’t exist in reality, namely any potential Democratic opponent. “The editors didn’t tell us,” he writes, “who should take his place in the aftermath.” He then goes on to list the attributes of this “replacement,” most of which are completely blown out of proportion. Dr. Dobson is a staunch believer and practitioner of the “only way” theology, and he’s long been a leader in the baking of bias into the political realm of conservative Christians. Here are his beliefs regarding ANY opposition to the President, namely that the only choices would be:

  • Pro-abortion — There is no such thing, for pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. As someone who knows the truth here, let’s just say that this issue brings in more money to white evangelical coffers than any other, because these people have done a great job of confusing the issue of choice with the killing of “babies.”
  • Anti-family — This means the nuclear family with working dad, stay-at-home mom, and straight children. It doesn’t even begin to acknowledge other family arrangements and their needs for support from us all.
  • Hostile to the military — This disguises Trump’s use of the military for extorting “protection” money from our allies abroad. A Pentagon funded by increasing the federal debt is not pro-military, and we’ve learned from history that making war as a defense against others making war against us can have drastic consequences, especially when politicians insert their own personal agendas. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to read the exploits of Richard Nixon in 1968.
  • Dispassionate toward Israel — This, of course, references anyone who acknowledges the war crimes perpetrated on the Palestinians in the name of Zionism. To Dr. Dobson and his cronies, God Almighty brought Israel back into being to usher in the return of Jesus Christ. This is hardly a basis for unilateral and unquestioning support of a foreign power like Israel, to whom we “give” $10 million each and every day to “defend” itself.
  • Supports a socialist form of government — This is the real straw man of 2019, for Republicans don’t argue anymore with Democrats; it’s “Socialist Democrats,” which are just a breath away from Communist Democrats. Oh please. Fascist Republicans believe they can falsely claim anything as long as it moves the electorate in their direction or keeps them there. Dobson’s “Christians” are especially gullible in this regard.
  • Promotes confiscatory taxationOMG. All taxes are confiscatory, but it’s a big word he can use to obliterate the reality that Trump borrowed $2 trillion and gave it to the wealthy — many of whom give big resources to these white evangelical ministries.
  • Opposes school choice — This is the language of Zion term used to destroy public education in the name of segregation. The argument is that Christian parents (families) shouldn’t be forced to send their children to school with such obvious sinners as the poor and the afflicted for fear it might rub off on them.
  • Favors men in women’s sports and boys in girl’s locker rooms — This would be laughable if it weren’t for the real fears such a statement engenders in his “Focus on the Family” followers. It’s amazing how these people shun human progress in the name of self-service by always selecting worst-case “possibilities” rather than admit that their bias is showing.
  • Promotes the entire LGBTQ agenda — To Dr. Dobson and his ilk, this is a buzzword for what they deem to be sexual sins, on which they cannot give an inch, lest they be called hypocrites. Amazingly, however, story upon story of such escapades within the church continue to make headlines every week. Christians need to clean up their own messes before taking such a pharisaical position against the publicans of the world. Here’s the truth: the LGBTQ community has more in common with the Jesus of the Bible than His own followers do. But again, this is a threat to Dr. Dobson’s narrow view of family, so he must spew hatred rather than love.
  • Opposes parental rights — Wow, parental rights, eh? God said to “honor your father and mother,” not march in lockstep to their madness. This, again, points to Dobson’s ministry, and he needs this to be believable, because it means money to his 501c.3. In the age of the internet, this is a remarkable statement of such preposterous accusation that it’s hard to even respond without sounding deliberately off-putting. Nobody opposes parental rights, but common sense reveals the danger of rigid rules that only serve to isolate children, leaving them unprepared to participate in the tapestry of modern life.
  • Distrusts evangelicals and anyone who is not politically correct — As if the trust of evangelicals ought to be a given. Here we have a group trying to practice societal isolation in the name of God’s will, and yet they have the temerity to complain about distrust! Notice that Dr. Dobson lists the group as part of a bigger group that opposes so-called “political correctness.” This is deliberately designed to take advantage of legitimate debate over personal issues and make it into one that serves his constituency.
  • Trump fights for religious liberty and the Bill of Rights — Here the phrase “religious liberty” is interpreted as “Christian” liberty, which is actually not liberty at all but rather “license” in the name of Christianity. Lawyers use the term to project their own beliefs on others rather than read the establishment clause for what it really is — which is the opposite of what the fundamentalist evangelical community wants/needs it to be. In supporting a President who caters to their every whim, these are the only ones attempting to rewrite history to suit their needs, and it’s all going to collapse on their heads one day.

So, rather than answer with specificity the arguments raised in the Christianity Today editorial, Trump’s Christian Right is spouting their opposition to a being of their own making and description. The problem, of course, is that none of it is real.

There simply is no person or group that represents what Dr. Dobson opposes, and that’s the truth.

The Five Reasons White Evangelicals Will Vote for Trump in 2020

In the recovery community, we are often admonished to “play out the tape,” which means to consider where a decision will lead BEFORE making said decision. This is often life-altering wisdom for people who tend to simply react without thinking. Given the conservative wins in the U.K. elections, any thinking that Americans are just dying to vote Trump out is poppycock, and the GOP has done an outstanding job of painting the Dems into a fallacious socialist corner.

So, playing out the tape is an important exercise as we look ahead to November of 2020. White Evangelical Christians are likely to vote once again for Mr. Trump, because they simply cannot ignore five issues that matter above all. These, they are taught, are framed by what they believe to be absolute truths supported by faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ. Their view, quite frankly, is that they live safe from the ravages of sin within the culture, and they want everybody else to find what they’ve known in their personal histories.

It’s not the economy, although that issue may be huge to others. White Evangelicals profess that God is their provider and that His provision is their back-up plan in the event anything ever goes “wrong” under the sun. They don’t worry so much about shit happening or bad luck or bad timing or bad planning as they do striving to stay on the path of wholeness and prosperity.

It’s not global warming, because these people trust that God has it under control and that the evidence for global warming is all science, which is at enmity with Christianity at core anyway.

It’s not Trump’s behavior, because Biblical history includes stories of reprobates used by God for righteous purposes. So important are their core issues that as long as Republicans give them what they want, the President’s personal behavior is irrelevant, even if it matches that of the world’s oligarchs. Therefore, it’s not about the President’s pathological lying, self-centered governing, obstruction of justice, or any other political issue, as long as he maintains the rudder on the “right” course for these matters.

Here are the five issues that opposition cannot possibly overcome:

  1. Everything’s fine with them. Contrary to those with real evidence that Trump is turning the U.S. into a global laughing stock or destroying America as we know it, these Christians are just fine. Their lives are quite contented with the path of the right, for theirs is the Gospel of Self. Why should they want change when they look around the holiday table and smile at how things are just fine for them and their loved ones?
  2. Individualism. This is the Christian fundamentalist idea that everyone is responsible for themselves and their families. It’s a New Testament mandate to these Christians, a view that God has prospered them for taking care of their own. Therefore, the poor who are seeking hand outs from them are seen as vulgar thieves.
  3. Abortion — The litmus test for Supreme Court justices isn’t abortion; it’s their views on capitalism and business. That these candidates favor the pro-life perspective is a convenient justification for advancing the interests of business while leading “Christian” voters to the high moral hill which they are then directed to keep at all costs. Pro-life’s opposition is funneled into a “pro-death” pigeon hole that accompanies statements that the pro-choice perspective is actually pro-abortion. It’s amazing to me that such people — normally highly intelligent and successful people — can buy into this without question. “We finally have a President who’s on OUR side.”
  4. Religious Freedom — This is in reality a ruse to combat any aspect of gender fluidity, the core of which is homophobia. It’s not that these Christians have anything particular against those who practice such (as opposed to being born with it), but they don’t want their families being exposed to what they view as sin. Hence, they want the “freedom” to be intolerant towards those whose alternative lifestyles might draw their children or grandchildren away.
  5. Absolute allegiance to Israel, regardless of its behavior. There are simply no questions to be asked here, much less answered, because to these Christians, God was behind the re-creation of Israel in 1948, because He’s getting ready to usher in the return of Jesus Christ. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, his determination that the illegal settlements are actually legal, the abandonment of Syria, and the rejection of Obama’s Iranian deal all work to support the end times theology of the white evangelicals.

Nothing else matters, for the end justifies any means necessary, and Trump appears to be delivering to this particular flock. These are all talking points that the faithful have heard from their leaders for decades during the rise of the Christian Right. Hence, their determination that Trump was sent by God to restore the land that He gave to their Christian ancestors. Each of these issues is used to demonize opposition, because opposition is tagged as unrighteous and therefore, their points are freely dismissible as an argument. This leaves believers out on a dangerous limb of their own making, and they’re not about to ask for a ladder.

However, playing the tape out leads to a place where we must ask what comes next? It’s here where those who protest this establishment of religion must be wise, for there most certainly will be a “next” if this continues. These folks will reason that God has blessed their efforts, so the message will be to press on. They will demand Christian prayer in public schools. Moreover, everything they consider cultural sin will be challenged: tobacco, alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), and especially sex and everything that makes up the industry of adult entertainment.

It may lead to nothing, if they’re defeated in November. More than likely, however, they won’t view it as a loss and will simply continue to press these issues over and over again. Sorry, folks, but this is not a political fight. It’s the same old horrific religious bias we’ve been trying to set aside for centuries. This battle rightly belongs with the church, for the real struggle is for the narrative that best represents what it means to be Christian.

Right-wing fanatics have seized the brand for now, but if history is any guide, it thankfully won’t last. We would be tragic fools, however, to not let our voices count today.

When propaganda is presented as “news”

The phrase “right wing media” is increasingly used to label talk radio and television that provides a conservative political spin on the news. Its entire premise, however, is based on the false assumption that the mainstream press is “left wing media”. This raises their act to hero status in taking on those who would drag Western culture into the chaotic abyss of socialism.

And certainly America doesn’t want THAT!

This is the exact justification we used in the early and mid 1980s at CBN when Pat Robertson declared that God had told him to run for President and that he would win. We needed to craft a way for us to justify a chair at the big media table, one that placed us to the right of everybody else. Naming the press as an existential threat to the culture, we not only reported “the news” but we often became the news, and this was no accident. It was one of the 20th Century’s most significant examples of propaganda-based marketing.

Propaganda doesn’t require balance, so our complaints about the right wing bias of Fox News are not only foolish but irrelevant. However, by labeling itself “news” and using the word “balance” in its slogan (“Fair and Balanced”), Fox permits itself to make the subliminal justification that they’re an alternative to the mainstream press, who are not balanced either. This seems to make all sorts of logical sense, unless you have eyes to recognize that such a claim cannot be true.

Fox relies on the 20th Century concept of objectivity, which, to them, “should” translate to a 50–50, “he said she said” paradigm. In practice, however, Fox only presents a conservative narrative, so it is decidedly neither fair nor balanced. Besides, objectivity in news has been largely discounted for journalism, which recognizes the idea only in that it creates a sterile environment in which to place advertising. Companies, the thinking goes, don’t want their political bias to be known, for it carries the threat of product rejection by about half of all consumers. It was their demand for a sterile platform that ultimately led us to the mess we have today. Such is the curse of mass marketing, which is, to say the least, a broken and inept concept for selling (remember John Wanamaker’s dilemma).

The cultural need for advertising is changing dramatically since the dawn of the network, because corporations can now make themselves function as media companies and speak directly to consumers instead of going through the filters of advertising.

Transparency is the new objectivity, wrote David Weinberger many years ago. We are currently experiencing an entirely new operating paradigm for news, one that permits a degree of subjectivity, as long as that subjectivity is made known up front. With Donald Trump, Fox News has dropped entirely its claims of balance and has become the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. That’s fine, but it cannot ever again make the claim of balanced. Balance no longer means considering all sides in reporting; today, it’s a given that Fox presents itself as the balance, so there’s no need for including other opinions.

I know this, because it’s precisely what we did in the early 80s with the rise of “CBN News” via The 700 Club television program. The first order of business was that we needed to make the case that the mainstream media was, in fact, biased towards liberalism. One of the ways we did this was to cite cultural ruin (a.k.a. rampant sin and iniquity) as being caused ultimately by the devil, who was working in league with an ignorant and compliant press. If we could make it so, then we — as an alternative — could make the claim that we were an alternative to a steady stream of liberalism as news. Like the plausible impossibility of Superman, we wore the hero’s cape in our pioneering efforts.

The logical problem, of course, is that this makes for an unknowable assumption, one that doesn’t require evidence, for no one can know for certain the motivations of others.

I was there at the beginning and worked my tail off in concert with talented others to write the rules for doing television news with a conservative (a.k.a. Bible-based) point-of-view. You can say what you want about Pat Robertson and The 700 Club, but the truth is that we were the innovators that Fox emulated ten years later. The time was the early 80s under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and the first rule was to present — as fact — a self-justification based on the certainty that all the rest of the press presented a liberal political perspective and not objectivity. We pressed that we were providing the balance left out of mainstream reporting. It was a very strong and sellable point-of-view, for Richard Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew wasn’t speaking in a vacuum when he labeled the press “nattering nabobs of negativism” in 1969.

This history is important, because Fox News will never admit to “borrowing” the tactics we pioneered. They simply copied the finished product, so foundational motives and representations are hard to pin down. This gives them ample wiggle room to deny certain allegations of bias while marching forward as the mouthpiece for conservatism. As earlier pioneers, we took the arrows that could’ve been destined for Fox, but I digress.

Pat Robertson supports the business side of culture, largely because it has the money for his vision — a world governed not only by laws but also by the internal governor of Christianity. Business executives argue that freedom is not possible in a world where it’s every man for himself. This would be fine, except the right more often espouses the ideals of license rather than those of liberty, which assumes the rights of others.

Fundamental to our premise at CBN was the position that the entirety of the press presents a product that supports Democratic (a.k.a. “socialist” or “liberal”) political positions. Moreover, we posited, the journalistic hegemony of objectivity required that media companies provide political “balance” in presenting the issues of the day. Since the press “wouldn’t” do that, according to us, we gave ourselves permission to present the balance ourselves. Fox News is not original, not in any sense.

Fox News doesn’t have the basic straw man of “sin” to define the enemy left, but it certainly makes the press out to be evil, especially in social matters like crime and especially abortion. At least we were honest in the religion-based spiritual claims we made.

Of necessity, it meant operating to the right of the press politically but on the same level of all who claimed to provide “news and information.” The problem with this position, of course, is that the assumption of mainstream press bias — on the same scale as what we practiced from a conservative perspective — is entirely false. Nearly every attempt to create a “left-wing radio” response to conservative talk radio has failed, because there’s no similar artificial cultural necessity. News isn’t propaganda, just because it reflects the progressive (new) in society. America wants to grow in every way and is generally approving of a more progressive life in these United States, so naturally the news would reflect that.

Growing pains don’t have to be political.

The culture — which we presented as corrupt — had long ago decided issues we’re again debating today due in part to our efforts to keep those issues alive. The only “new” in the thinking of the right is ways for the rich to get richer, while increasing the burdens on the poor and the afflicted. And it is quite sad in America that a great many poor and rural actually side with the business interests of Republicans, because they’ve been convinced of the moral righteousness of those who “provide jobs”. Big corporate interests don’t hire people, because they’re concerned about the culture; they only do so to the extent that such an action will produce greater profits for themselves.

However, the rural poor are largely Christian evangelicals who are driven by issues other than what will pad the pockets of the rich.

The role of abortion, sexual preference, and school prayer — issues the Supreme Court long ago declared resolved for the culture — play a huge role in the folly that we have for political debate today, because the claim can be made that they are important to God. These issues brought some pro-life Catholics into the fold by convincing them that capitalists have their best interests at heart. Pro-Life became the clarion call, even though it did not extend to those who’d already been born.

Once again, the core argument for conservative news in 2019 is that the media as a whole better represents a liberal point of view more than one of political balance, which is required, they say, by the hegemonistic concept of objectivity. We need to fully unpack this before we’ll ever find the antidote to attacks on journalism and acts of journalism, such as the press being labeled “the enemy of the people” by our current President. Today, in simply doing their jobs, the press appears biased when it reacts normally to Donald Trump’s antics and misrepresentations, reporting that the right wing propagandists use to support their case to the public.

A good way to look at it is to understand that to qualify as “news,” there must be an element of something “new” in order to be recognized as a practitioner of the profession. There must be something “new” to qualify as “news”. Conservative “news,” however, can only present “old” as its core, as in “Make America Great Again.” It attempts to reach back into history and claim that the culture got it wrong back then, that things have changed so much that we have to go back and revisit cultural decisions that they opposed back then and still do today. This would be fine if the discussion took place on a level playing field, which it can’t, because propaganda doesn’t work that way.

So powerfully driven are the Republicans by big business that Trump is turning our military into a protection racket involving other countries. He’s extorting other countries in the name of profit, for our military won’t protect you now unless you pay for it. The Kurds obviously couldn’t pay, and now we have that on the record as our response to those who don’t or won’t pay. The Republicans see only a bottom line when examining every issue, whether foreign or domestic, although government is supposed to represent everyone, not just the one percent who form a shadow government under the GOP.

Today — and to further confuse things — Republicans are calling Democrats “socialists” so they can make references to capitalism as being the proven better way. Again, this would be fine, if it were true. It’s not, however, and we’re entering a season now where the reference will sooner or later become communism. The word “socialism” strikes fear in the hearts of those its designed to ping, but true fear mongering always reaches for the worst possible alternative to the status quo.

There are two important arguments that need to be on the table:

One, the idea that objectivity is the goal of professional journalism is only about 100 years old and stems from the efforts of Walter Lippmann and his cronies to accommodate two factions of American culture: to create a sterile environment in which to sell advertising, and to bring about the social engineering of American elites through Edward Bernays’ “public relations,” better known as the deliberate manipulation of citizens according to the values and beliefs of those who could pay for it. More than any other two people in history, Lippmann and Bernays created what Lippmann called “The Manufacture of Consent” and Bernays’ “Propaganda”. This knowledge is critical in sorting things out today, for when Bernays put cigarettes in the mouths of Suffragette marchers in New York knowing they would be photographed and presented in newspapers everywhere, he did so on behalf of his client, the American Tobacco Company.

Cigarette sales to women skyrocketed, having been elevated to political protest status by Bernays’ clever manipulation. Bernays was keenly aware of what he was doing, as he wrote in his seminal book Propaganda:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Two, the press represents the people, and news coverage follows the ebbs and flows of the culture. Those publishers who consider first the best interests of the business community, are more inclined to both espouse and represent a conservative position. The Wall Street Journal comes to mind. The same is true for publishers, such as the New York Times, who don’t believe that capitalism should be the default determiner in all matters involving what’s best for our citizens. Both are considered “first writers” of history, which means they follow the ups and downs of the culture.

America is uniquely governed in such a way that there is necessary tension built into the relationships between branches of government, but that is also the case with journalism, because it covers current events as the people’s representatives, and human beings don’t always come with built-in bullshit detectors. The discovery that they are being manipulated may be the determining factor in how long this sham will continue to dominate the grand narrative of life in these United States.

Donald Trump is not under attack in the press because he’s different. He’s not under attack for taking on the system. He’s not under attack, because foreign countries don’t pay us protection money. And he’s most certainly not under attack for pressing a white evangelical Christian agenda. He’s under attack because he’s a liar, a business cheat, and a manipulator of people. He is a salesman and ought never to be in charge of product development, because he actually believes his own hyperbole. He’s simply not fit for public service, because the only public that he serves is himself and his mob-like underlings.

And, you simply do not withhold security aid to a foreign government until they provide you with dirt on political opponents. This is against our law, as stated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Birds of a Feather

Only Bernie Sanders can win Trump supporters

Until yesterday, I believed there was zero chance that Donald Trump would be re-elected. Today, I’m not so sure. That’s because none of the serious mischief that’s going on in the White House today matters with his street level support. None of it. As in, it’s all irrelevant, and it does zero good to argue with them using facts alone. This is the same attitude that existed during the 2016 campaign and fills arenas wherever Trump is speaking. It’s also what the professional observers (the press) continue to miss today.

I had what can best be described as a moment of clarity yesterday while arguing with my focus group of two neighbors (Don’t go there. I don’t need more in order to listen.). Their demographics don’t matter. It’s their psychographics that set them apart, and I don’t think the press really understands this. So, it’s not what Trump is or isn’t “doing;” it’s what he represents as the leader of this group. That’s the key to understanding.

These are Americans in the truest sense. Many are ex-military. They understand and accept duty and pecking order. They call “bullshit” on anybody in Washington who claims to have their backs. They’re seriously mad as hell and demand change. They KNOW what they’ll get from the status quo, and they see in Trump a man who at least tries to be a political outsider.

“He’s smart. He’s not going to do things the old way. No matter how painful, we need somebody like him in office.”

“I’m tired of the United States paying for everything throughout the world. We can’t keep doing that, and I don’t care what other countries think of us. We’ve GOT to take care of ourselves first. Let other countries send their people to these wars everywhere.”

“He’s not a politician. He’s a businessman, and he’s running things like a smart businessman would.”

But the real giveaway is when we discuss Democratic candidates. The only one they’ll seriously consider is Bernie Sanders. What this says very clearly to me is that what these people want is change, and that’s the message that everybody seems to be missing. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders couldn’t be further apart in terms of policy, character, or platform, but they are joined at the hip in criticizing the status quo.

Anger drives supporters of both. Everything is not just fine.

My discontent with Christianity in the 21st Century

History will record photos like this one as marking a dark time in the West

One of the very real downsides of growing older is that I’m often tired, and this puts a strain on everything in my life. It’s not so much a physical exhaustion as it is a mental one, and for someone who’s always thinking, it can be taxing. I grow weary of taking the time to explain every nuance of the things I believe, and this is also reflected in a growing agitation towards people. It’s “get off my lawn” amplified, for which a nap is a quick, if temporary, solution. And, a nap, it can be said, is a waste of that most precious of commodities, time.

It’s enough to make a grown man go berserk.

The discomfort for me is very real. I’ve studied and meditated on a few core principles about life, and the entirety of my thinking is connected, which produces sweeping proposals for the culture. Going back and reproducing this in order to justify a single conclusion is impossibly complex and weighty. I’ve been studying for decades as a professional observer. Therefore, what may seem a matter of illogic to the reader is, in fact, quite the opposite, for I’ve learned to always cross my Ts and dot my Is.

Therefore, I give up. No more attempting to persuade people, because people don’t want to be persuaded. At least not by me. I’ve decided that it’s time for me to stop trying to explain everything and simply call ugliness, well, ugliness.

Christians who voted for Donald Trump, because they thought he was anointed by God for the task have created a real mess for our culture, because the beliefs they’ve been fed are absurdly false. The only cultural mandate from the mouth of Christ is that we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Anything beyond that makes the foolish assumption that artificially righteous behavior is more important than something so mushy as love God, love your neighbor. To these false Christians, sinning today is a potential block to their “real” reward, an afterlife in Heaven, not Hell (wait, am I supposed to capitalize that?). Make no mistake. The issues important to this group are those already defeated by the culture but not in the minds of these zealots. Those issues appear to be righteous causes, but the reality is they’re all wrapped around the need for evangelical leaders to have power. That’s idolatry. Demonizing those deemed different in any way is a key element of their success, and they breed fear amongst their followers in so doing.

We’ve switched from being salt and light to becoming the chef Himself.

I have no reason to think that the current culture war will not eventually be won by the liberals, for that has been our pattern historically. Conservatives begin the fights over what they view as a loss of cultural control, but they offer only tradition and myth as solutions. As long as everybody goes along, things are fine, but it’s those who wish to somehow correct the deeds of history that move the culture forward. All one needs to do is read Stephen Prothero, whose book “Why Liberals Win The Culture Wards (Even When They Lose Elections),” is a historical guide to the ongoing battles between liberals and conservatives over the direction of our society.

“Conservatives initiate a war by rallying an anxious electorate to a “cause.” Capitalizing on fear and frustration, conservatives often win the elections but, surprisingly, almost always lose the culture wars. Why? Because they choose causes that are already lost.”

They are too stupid (ignorance is fixable; stupid is forever) to accurately gauge the prevailing logic used by conservatives. That logic is bogus. For example, nobody is “for” abortion. Nobody is “for” unsafe neighborhoods. Nobody is “for” unchecked influxes of people who don’t look like them (unless it’s to do jobs the conservatives won’t). Nobody is “for” massive taxes, although most believe the rich should pay their fair share. They don’t in a conservative world view, for giving them tax breaks allegedly increases the chances they’ll create new jobs. And, of course, nobody’s “for” blocking prayers in schools; we just don’t want them to be from the marketing experts with right-wing Christian groups and organizations whose motives cannot be trusted. Such is it with those who preach that the only thing that matters about life is that you’ve reserved a place for yourself in Heaven when life has ended (through them, of course).

To these people, it all makes perfect sense. They cast their votes with the rich and powerful and against the very same poor their faith instructs them to uplift. I don’t care how many babies one is trying to protect, how much one insists that the old days were better than today, how many times one expresses their fear of foreigners, or how much one wiggles their finger at what they perceive as sexual sin, it doesn’t change the reality that these all form the self-centered core of unbridled bullshit.

I mean, really. How do normally intelligent people not see what’s really taking place? The President’s corporate welfare package disguised as a tax cut benefitted only the silk stockings, and what have we to do with them? The $1.9 trillion gift to the rich turned into, amazingly, a $1.9 trillion U.S. debt, for which we are all responsible. And yet, this deceived mass smiles an accomplishment smile in the name of saving babies, prayer in school, the Ten Commandments (including number 8), the license to continue their political action with their 501©3’s, and, of course, unconditional support for Israel despite all the evidence of human rights violations in the name of Zionism.

I’m tired of criticism that’s not based in reality, even when it comes from really good and well-intentioned people. The prevailing logic — the grand narrative — of the Christian community is denied, despite rock solid evidence to the contrary. When arguments that are nothing more than propaganda are presented in defense, these people hunker down, because they’re told that doing anything else is contrary to God. Like Thomas Paine said, “It’s like administering medicine to the dead.” This is the paradox of the Christian Right, that those who defend the actions of the president are the most likely to deny the actual words of Jesus found in the New Testament.

Here’s Prothero again discussing the culture war between Protestants and Catholics two centuries ago that turned violent.

During the Protestant Reformation, Protestants had distinguished themselves from Catholics by their mantra of sola scriptura. Whereas Catholics claimed that Christian authority resided in both scripture and tradition, Protestants insisted on the authority of the “Bible alone.” Given this legacy, it should not be surprising that virtually every American public school in the early nineteenth century taught the Bible not as literature but as truth, and not only as truth but as “the fountainhead of morality and all good government.” One of the core objectives of public schooling was to create moral citizens. But the only way to instill morality was through religion, the only true religion was Protestantism, the only sure foundation for Protestantism was the Bible, and the only real Bible was the Protestants’ King James Version.

Sound familiar? It should, because we’re still dealing with it today, the difference being that the propagandists have their own distribution platforms for public information now, so the dung heap being stirred is a very old and smelly one, because it’s been dead for two hundred years. People, for the most part, are completely unaware of this period in American history, so they feel a sense of pioneering in trying to right their perceived wrongs. It’s not pioneering; it’s good old-fashioned American bigotry rearing its ugly head, and if allowed to continue, it’ll result in the same kind of bloodshed we had (in the name of God) two centuries ago. Philadelphia — ironically the City of Brotherly Love — was the epicenter of discontent. Hundreds were killed, and the Catholic Church had to temporarily shut down to avoid even more gunfire and death.

As Murrow so eloquently stated, “We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.”

Welcome to the fruit of our denial.